A digital migration is clearly underway. Tweets, mobile apps, email and e-billing continue to make headlines. However, most consumers today prefer to receive their communications through a mix of digital and physical channels - and the majority prefers mail for financial and healthcare information. Many organizations find that enhancements to their essential communications generate the strongest returns.

Fortunately, there are opportunities to streamline mail production, improve mail performance, and reduce the costs of both print and postage. There is currently a lot of buzz around a concept called the "White Paper Factory." This end-to-end, integrated print-to-mail approach can transform how communications are produced, helping businesses improve operational performance, better leverage client communications, and build stronger client engagement for revenue growth. Taking this full "White Paper Factory" approach can be a highly complex effort. However, you can actually take a simpler approach by choosing specific improvements that align best with your organizational needs, goals, and constraints.

So how do you get started? Here are five key opportunities that can help deliver powerful results - and some things to keep in mind to get the best results from every improvement.

Opportunity #1: Eliminate your pre-print inventories By leveraging variable data digital color print technologies, you can replace your old practices of pre-printing inventories of color shells, forms, inserts and envelopes. And, by applying proven just-in-time manufacturing processes, you can harness these technologies to combine data, content, personalization and color into a re-engineered, highly efficient workflow.

The White Paper Factory approach to print and mail starts with blank rolls of white paper. With this step, you can utilize digital variable print to combine data, content, personalization and color in a single workflow, and automate the process end-to-end. These changes help to eliminate pre-print inventory costs, waste from obsolescence, and costly manual processes. They can also enable your organization to be more agile in responding to regulatory and business needs.

Opportunity #2: Consolidate print jobs In shifting to variable data digital color print, you can standardize inputs and automate consolidation of smaller print jobs. This helps to eliminate time-consuming manual changeover processes and the risk of human error that comes with them. By consolidating multiple smaller jobs and printing them in presort order, you can eliminate physical presorting processes, and optimize your presort-discount postal savings.

Many organizations still send multiple mailings or statements to the same household. If your organization is among them, you may also discover benefits to taking a White Paper Factory approach that merges print streams; combining documents into a single mailpiece.

This can help you to mail fewer mailpieces per household, and reduce postage expense; reduce duplications in accompanying disclosures to lower print and paper costs and reduce postage even further; and leverage your print-and-mail operation for routine correspondence and other office mail.

Opportunity #3: Add color and relevant offers Transactional documents have the highest open and read rates of all consumer correspondence. These are an important customer touchpoint and a great opportunity for engagement. Make sure they create a positive brand experience.
ï· Use color and graphics to highlight and clarify the call-to-action. The right use of color can significantly improve readability, helping to increase customer satisfaction, decrease call-center volume, and even accelerate payments.
ï· Personalize and target your correspondence to show your clients how well your organization knows and understands them. Harvest insights from Big Data and customer analytics, and apply these insights using variable data digital color print to enable more effective and immediate personalized cross-sell, upsell and retention messaging.
ï· Combine personalization with color to increase response rates even further. The right use of color can also significantly improve readability, helping to increase customer satisfaction, decrease call-center volume, and even accelerate payments.

Opportunity #4: Optimize your envelopes Now you can print on plain white envelopes, including Business Reply Envelopes (BREs) at the time of production, eliminating pre-print and including the most current addresses and messaging. You can also easily shift between black-and-white and full-color printing as you choose. This just-in-time approach enables one-pass printing of the proper brand logo, Intelligent Mail barcode, targeted messaging, even last-minute offers personalized by client. It increases agility, reduces waste, and, by starting the sales on the outside of the envelope, can lead to substantially better open and response rates.

Opportunity #5: Make your own envelopes on the fly Organizations interested in reducing mailing costs and increasing efficiencies even further can eliminate use of standard envelopes, adopting new specialized wrapper technology instead. Unlike prefabricated envelopes, wrappers are crafted on the fly from rolls of plain white paper during the document production process. Your wraps can be configured to produce closed-face envelopes with scalloped flap or windowed envelopes, all with the same look and feel as traditional options. Through a combination of reduced paper usage, improved warehouse management, and significantly less scrap, using wrappers instead of envelopes is estimated to lower mailpiece costs by 20 to 40%.

Putting it all together
Here's an example of how a White Paper Factory can work: an insurance company can easily combine multiple Explanations of Benefits (EOBs) in a single envelope. Because they are using 100% variable data digital color print, they can highlight the payment due or call-to-action using color graphics to reduce confusion, lower call-center volume and accelerate payments. They can also add personalized health-and-wellness information to help increase wellness and client engagement. This enables them to reduce the use of paper, envelopes and postage and cost-effectively produce higher quality client communications that drive better business results.

Your organization may wish to implement one or many of these changes, and to pursue the changes concurrently or over time. Whatever your approach, it is important to work with a solutions provider that understands and supports the entire document production process and can help in addressing organizational priorities, streamlining integration and optimizing process improvements.

Here are a few important considerations that can help you get the most out of your White Paper Factory improvements:
ï· Look for a solutions provider that can help in identifying and introducing solutions-hardware, software, staffing and workflow-throughout the process.
ï· Choose a provider with a track record of success in driving service-level agreement (SLA) achievement; lower total cost of print and mail; improved presentation and personalization for higher revenue and response; and fewer customer-service inquiries.
ï· Seek out a provider that is skilled at using lean manufacturing principles and production-intelligence software to combine jobs, optimize postal sort order, maintain integrity and streamline visibility into each mailpiece throughout the document production process.
ï· Select a provider that understands both print and mail. Many providers offer solutions for just print or just mail-but the biggest benefits come from solutions that seamlessly integrate print and mail to optimize the entire communications process.

Staying Focused on the Consumer
Consumer demand for hardcopy communications makes improving print and mail efficiencies an imperative for most organizations. However, these hardcopy communications are just one part of the customer experience. As you make improvements in print and mail, be sure to consider how these improvements can be integrated into your overall marketing mix. Choose solutions that can help your organization become better coordinated across channels and touchpoints for a better customer experience overall.

Grant Miller is Vice President, Global Strategic Product Management, Document Messaging Technologies, Pitney Bowes.